Friday, December 2, 2011

December 2: Veruca Salt, "Seether"

Artist: Veruca Salt
Song: "Seether"
Album: American Thighs
Year: 1994

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While there is no question that the first few years of the 1990's yielded some of the most exciting and innovative new sounds that had been heard in decades, there were also a number of bands that found ways to better the approaches of groups from the previous decade.  This was perhaps no more clear than when one looks at the more aggressive strain of pop music that had been mislabeled as "punk-pop" and included the likes of The Pixies, The Breeders, and an array of similar bands.  The fact of the matter is that while these bands were unquestionably vital to the progression of music, they often sacrificed musical appeal in favor of distortion, and this prevented the sound from catching on with a much larger audience.  It is with this in mind that one must give due credit to the talents of Veruca Salt, as they managed to bridge this gap and brought a style of hard-driven pop music that would inspire an entire generation of new musicians.  Clearly taking a large part of their sound from the influences above, it is the way that Veruca Salt injected a fierce, yet fun sound to each of their songs, and the group is responsible for some of the most memorable songs of the entire decade.  Deploying raw, irresistibly catching songs all across their 1994 debut, American Thighs, there may be no more definitive an encapsulation of everything that makes Veruca Salt so fantastic than the albums' lead single, "Seether."

All across the opening notes of "Seether," the intent of both the song and band are completely clear, and yet there is no question that on many levels, the sound deployed by Veruca Salt is a far cry from the music being created by a majority of their peers.  Where most other bands of the time were getting dark and loud to the point of distortion, "Seether" has an irresistibly catchy bassline that is delivered by Steve Lack.  This groove is complimented by a rather dry drum sound from Jim Shapiro, and one of the most distinctive aspects of "Seether" is how far to the front the drums are mixed.  It is the way that this sound combines with the imposing guitars of Nina Gordon and Louise Post that defines not only this song, but a majority of the songs from Veruca Salt.  There is a bite to every note that booms forth from their guitars, and the brief solo has a sleaze and groove that have rarely been matched.  At no point does the band feel anything less than completely open and raw, and it is this hard and honest approach that enables the song to still have a massive appeal even nearly twenty years after its initial release.  The fact that the duo are playing so aggressively would play a key role in ushering in a new era of female-led hard rock bands, and few groups have been able to find such a perfect balance between the dirty, trudging guitar sound, and a bright, unique pop appeal.

However, while the main riff to "Seether" is unquestionably one of the most memorable of the decade, there are few who can argue that the vocals from Nina Gordon and Louie Post are any less important to the development of a number of musical styles.  Much like their guitar playing, there is a certain bite or spirit within their singing that further pushes Veruca Salt into their own category, and the fact that both singers can easily work all across the vocal scale enables songs like "Seether" to become all the better.  The screams and otherwise high-octane singing that occurs at every moment on this song is perhaps the most mesmerizing aspect of the track, and then when one adds in the fact that there are multiple interpretations that can be derived from the lyrics; there is no question that "Seether" is far beyond almost anything else from that era.  While many critics attempted to paint the song as some sort of strangely veiled reference to rather risqué relationships between the two singers, the reality is that the song was actually written as a commentary on the almost impossible to control rage that we all encounter in our lives.  Once one understands this being the driving force behind the song, the attitude and lyrics make far more sense, and yet even without this knowledge, there is no question that the song is absolutely addictive due to the fact that the singing and lyrics have so much power and vibrancy.

Striking a balance between hard rock, punk rock, and "art" rock that had never before been achieved, there are few that can hold their own when compared to Veruca Salt.  The fact that they took on such a style during an era where music was headed in a far darker direction enabled them to have a far wider appeal, and yet one can easily make the case that with the sheer perfection found within both the music and singing, songs like "Seether" would have found mainstream success in any time period.  Furthermore, while Veruca Salt are certain a group that is proud of their influences and has no problem making it clear who they are, it is the way that they took the work of these earlier bands, and honed the sound, finishing it off with their own unique twist, that shows a greater understanding of music than one finds in most of the other music being released during the first half of the 1990's.  It is the fact that "Seether" retains such a edge within both the music and lyrics, yet never become so hard or loud that it might put off certain listeners, that shows the bands' knowledge and understanding of a number of different musical approaches.  Capped off by the fantastic vocals and the rather unapologetic lyrics, and few songs are as unforgettable or as outright enjoyable as what one can experience on Veruca Salt's superb 1994 single, "Seether."

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